Awkward dancer Theresa May changes her tune on foreign aid
In a nod to the Tory right, the prime minister now wants to ensure that our aid programme 'works for the UK'.
Earlier this year, Theresa May essentially told Jacob Rees Mogg and others to go away when they called on her to abandon Britain’s foreign aid commitment.
Seizing on the Oxfam scandal, Rees Mogg turned up at Number 10 with a Daily Express petition calling on the prime minister to “STOP THE FOREIGN AID MADNESS”. In response, Downing Street briefed that nothing was changing - the commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on foreign aid would remain in place, not least because it is a legal obligation.
Last year, May went further in her rhetoric, saying she was “very proud of the record we have, of the children around the world who are being educated as a result of what the British taxpayer is doing in terms of international aid".
But having kicked off her tour of South Africa with an awkward dancing performance, is the prime minister now starting to change her tune on foreign aid?
“I am unashamed about the need to ensure that our aid programme works for the UK,” she said in a speech in Cape Town.
“So today I am committing that our development spending will not only combat extreme poverty, but at the same time tackle global challenges and support our own national interest. This will ensure that our investment in aid benefits us all, and is fully aligned with our wider national security priorities.”
The comments are not a complete capitulation to the Tory right, but they will be seen as a clear nod in the direction of Rees Mogg and his ilk – and away from the direction of her predecessor.
“As prime minister, I ensured the UK was the first G7 country to meet the target to spend 0.7% of its income on aid. I am proud of that,” wrote David Cameron four months ago. “But I am equally proud that we responded to this shifting landscape, increasing the proportion of aid going to fragile states from 30% to 50%.”